The cog railway is one of those once in a life time type of things if you only plan on doing one trip up the mt make it the cog.
Pros - unique train ride, breathtaking views, novelty, sit back and relax and let the engineer do the driving, Jacob's Ladder
Cons - Ride can be dirty (coal ash) if the wind is blowing the wrong direction - don't wear nice clothes, time on the summit only 20 minutes. Expensive, worth it if...the weather is clear and you can see the scenery on the ride up but ya' may feel cheated if the view is obscured by clouds (the Cog will try to get you to book reservations in advance...I suggest waiting until you get up here to see what the weather is like...you can usually get a seat on the train on the day you want if you call early and have flexibility on what train you might like to ride (after checking out the weather conditions and making sure the summit will be clear) - How to tell if the summit will be clear? Check out the Mt. Washington web site which has live web cams from the summit or look out your window and see if you can see the summits as you are driving around the area.
Auto Road (Drive it yourself)
Pros - Cheaper than the Cog. Greater flexibility on how long you stay up there and what you can see. Thrill of driving up the side of the mountain - you'll understand the "thrill" part when you get on the road and realize that it's narrow, windy, and there aren't a lot of guardrails separating you from the bottom of the precipice that is the shoulder of the road...You get a tacky bumper sticker that states this car climbed mt. washington and a CD that accompanies you on your drive up the mt.
Cons - can be a bit hair-raising for the passenger - please note comment about narrow, windy road with drop-offs. Tough on your car if you have a clunker...
Auto Road (Stage)
Pros - guided tour, more time on summit. Let the driver do the driving.
Con's - not as much flexibility as with your car, but better than the Cog.
Note....you can check with the engineer about coming down on a later train, but you may not be assured a seat...sit in the aisle and during foliage season every train will likely be filled so if you lose your seat on your train down...you'll be sitting in the aisle.
Major Additional Note
If you are planning to do some hikes on the summit of Washington like to lake of the clouds or headwall of tuckermans - Drive Up...much more freedom to play on the summit. Be preapared for bad weather (i.e. high winds, snow, ice, etc.) especially if you will be straying off the summit....clouds can blow in and you could quickly become disoriented on the summit as visibility drops...let summit crew know you are venturing out for a hike and carry extra clothes, food and water if not a fully bivouac sack should you get stranded off the summit...Washington is not a summit to take lightly at this time of year. Temps can drop, wind chills can be in the teens and below at this time of year...
Thanks for the comments/suggestions. After looking at our itinerary, I think we will have time to drive up on our way to Bartlett (from Bar Harbor) and if we don't get enough of the Mt Washington experience, we can maybe do the cog a day or two later.
I agree with driving up. Just to clarify a few points:
Do not put the bumper sticker on your rental car, I don't think they want to know their car was at the top.
Speaking of Rental Cars, certain types of cars are not allowed on the auto road. Check their website www.mountwashingtonautoroad.com for more information on that.
If you decide to take one of their stages you only get 30 mins at the top unless you take the first one of the day in which you get 60 mins. Where the cog is 20 mins.
Thats all for now. Enjoy the trip.
"stagecoach" up Mt. Washington last year. It's a ride in a van but the guides are so informative and the trip was great! We thought about doing the cog railway but it was booked that day. We did speak with some people at the top that took the cog and they were pretty "sooty." Glad we saved a bunch of $$ on the stagecoach instead of the Cog. Plus, you'd have some additional driving to the Cog. Staying in Bartlett is close of the auto road. Also, right by Story Land is a place called Heritage House. It's hard to explain but it takes you through 400 years of history. Not just a museum...you are taken back in history. Worth the time and effort! Not sure how late they stay open as Story Land and Santa's Village close over Columbus Day weekend. Enjoy! We return each year on our anniversary!
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